A recent story in the HuffPost by Robert Reich caught my eye. He was attempting to figure out why Mitt Romney is slipping in the polls and speculated that two reasons count heavily in the analysis. The first is that Romney is a lousy campaigner. Mitt certainly does seem ill-suited for the huge stage he is now performing on, flubbing his lines and terribly uncomfortable with the role he is being asked to play. But the second reason Reich gave is most interesting. I quote at length:
. . . the second explanation strikes me as more compelling. The Republican primaries, and then the Republican convention, have shown America a party far removed from the “compassionate conservatism” the GOP tried to sell in 2000. Instead, we have a party that’s been taken over by Tea Partiers, nativists, social Darwinists, homophobes, [birthers], right-wing evangelicals, and a few rich people whose only interest is to become even wealthier.
These regressives were there in 2000, to be sure. They lurked in the GOP in the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich took over the House. They were there in the 1980s, too, although Ronald Reagan’s sunny disposition gave them cover. In truth, they’ve been part of the GOP for more than half a century — but never before have they held so much sway in the party, never before have they called the shots.
The second view about Romney’s decline also explains the “negative coat-tail” effect — why so many Republicans around the country in Senate and House races are falling behind. Scott Brown, for example, is well-liked in Massachusetts. But his polls have been dropping in recent weeks because he’s had to carry the burden of the public’s increasing dislike of the Republican Party. The same is true with regard to Republican senate races in Florida, Virginia, and every other battleground state.
One thing about this campaign that has struck me is the amount of time Romney spends explaining what he meant to say. My memory of past elections is that the Republicans were always on the attack and the Democrats were on the ropes, explaining and apologizing. But the shoe does seem to be on the other foot this time around (though thanks to Romney’s gaffes the Democrats don’t need to attack) and if Romney doesn’t shine in the debates — his own people suspect he will not — Obama should retain the White House. The Senate race is a whole different ball game, as they say.
But Reich’s analysis gives rise to this interesting question: if enough Republicans get sick and tired of the nasties and crazies who have taken over their party, could a third party with both money and political clout be aborning? Interesting.